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Sudden Cardiac Arrest on Board Flights

Published on 3rd August 2018

Now Boarding Flight 907 – With a 10% chance of sudden cardiac arrest survival

Sudden Cardiac Arrest can strike at any time.

The number of medical emergencies on flights has risen in recent years, mainly due to more and more of us jetting off each year to switch off from the real world.

Currently, there are approximately 9,728 planes carrying 1,270,406 passengers in the air. With an average of one medical emergency per 604 flights, that means there are likely 16 flights experiencing some form of medical emergency as you read this!

“I did ask for a defibrillator…and it was quite a surprise this wasn’t there”

Emergency on board

In 2017, Alan Bourne boarded his Jet2 flight to Birmingham from Majorca. Shortly before take-off, Alan suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Despite trained staff performing CPR, Alan couldn’t be saved.

A passenger noted how Alan appeared to have been on holiday with his family, and that “it took quite a while for the ambulance to turn up”.

Davina Tavener was travelling with Ryanair to Lanzarote with her husband and two children. Her husband became concerned when Davina failed to return from the toilet, where it was discovered she had collapsed.

A consultant surgeon was on board, and along with staff attempted to revive Davina, with no success. Clare Garnset, a consultant breast surgeon at the Royal Bolton Hospital, said

“I did ask for a defibrillator, because if it’s a cardiac issue that’s the best chance of survival, and it was quite a surprise this wasn’t there”.

Coroner Alan Walsh spoke at the enquiry, stating:
“I don’t believe there is any difference between short-haul flights and long-haul flights. It takes a second to have a cardiac event and sadly cardiac events don’t choose whether they are 10 minutes into a flight or 10 hours into a flight.

“If you are, by the nature of air travel, trapped in aircraft without access to any other facility, the authorities need to consider the equipment to be carried on those airlines, whether it’s short haul or long haul.”

No current regulation

The first airline to carry defibrillators was British Caledonian in 1986. Some UK-based current airlines carry AEDs, including Virgin, British Airways and easyJet. There is currently no requirement for all airlines to carry defibrillators, unlike their American counterparts who have FAA regulation on automated external defibrillators (AEDs) since 2001.

It takes a second to have a cardiac event and sadly cardiac events don’t choose whether they are 10 minutes into a flight or 10 hours into a flight.

Last week, we wrote about the rules surrounding AEDs in UK schools. It would seem that more and more industries are becoming aware of the danger from SCA, but regulation is some way off.

AEDs are simple and easy to use. The Lifeline AED has been purposely designed to be operated without training and can even be used by a child.

With the ever-present danger of SCA, you need to be prepared with effective equipment in the workplace. Often too far from professional medical aid, the Lifeline AED could be the difference between life and death.

Put a price on the safety of yourself, your family and colleagues here.